Washington: US researchers found that cannibalism is a new way to stop the spread of disease and it may be an understudied factor in disease control, according to a statement by the Louisiana State University (LSU).
Bret Elderd, associate professor of LSU Department of Biological Sciences, and his colleagues has found that in the fall armyworm system, cannibalism decreases the rate of disease spread, Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying on Monday.
In other systems, there is observational evidence that cannibalism hinders the spread of disease.
The new study, led by former LSU postdoctoral researcher and current University of California at San Diego (UCSD) postdoctoral researcher Benjamin Van Allen, along with researchers in Elderd's lab and Volker Rudolf's lab at Rice University, will be published in the American Naturalist journal.
The paper contrasts the human agricultural practice of culling livestock to remove sick individuals and prevent disease spread, for example in the case of foot-and-mouth outbreaks in livestock, to cannibalism.
It turns out that cannibalism can be far more effective at culling diseased individuals from a population.
Elderd and his colleagues have provided a first step toward empirical evidence of exactly how cannibalism affects disease spread in insect populations.